In a new interview with German television, Archbishop Georg Ganswein broke a bit of news. First he revealed that Pope Francis asked his predecessor to comment on the text of the interview he gave to the world's Jesuit publications last summer. Francis had Ganswein -- who acts both as the prefect of the papal household and as personal secretary to Benedict XVI -- deliver the document to the retired pope, along with one blank sheet of paper on which to record his responses. "Three days later Benedict handed me four pages of reflections, notes, and supplements concerning certain questions -- things one might go into in more detail elsewhere -- most interesting -- but I’m not of course going to reveal them. I then took this booty back to the Pope," according to Ganswein. Remind me never to give that guy any private correspondence.
But Ganswein didn't stop there. In the same interview, he also mentioned that Francis was not his choice to succeed Benedict. "I had favored other candidates," he said. "I was wrong -- but then so were other people.” Pope Francis may be fawned over by the media, he continued, “but that won’t always be the case.” Sounds ominous. The pope is not “everybody’s darling," he added -- in English.
This isn't the first time Ganswein has popped off about the pope (the current pontiff, not the "hidden from the world" one).
Back in December he told a German paper that finding his new role under Francis makes him ache. “I have the impression that I live in two worlds.” And about Francis, he said, "I wait every day for another innovation, what will be different today.” Sounds disconcerting. Indeed, he even admitted that when Francis decided not to live in the papal aparments -- that is, the household Ganswein is prefect of -- he found it an "affront" (but apparently he and Francis joke about it now).
All of this has the deputy editor of the Tablet of London wondering whether it isn't time for Ganswein to go. "By stating that he would have preferred that someone other than Pope Francis had been elected to the Chair of Peter he has made his own position untenable," writes Elena Curti. She concludes:
Pope Francis has kept Gänswein at arm’s length by choosing to live in the Domus Sanctae Marthae rather than Apostolic Palace where the Prefect of the Papal Household holds sway. Looked at with hindsight that was a wise decision.
It would be even better if Archbishop Gänswein were now to devote himself exclusively to serving the Pope Emeritus – or leave Rome altogether.
I understand why Curti finds Ganswein's gnomic, if not arch, comments problematic. It's more than strange that a member of the papal household is giving so many interviews. He's supposed to serve as a bridge between the pope and the ex-pope, but seems to be less than thrilled with the man who succeeded his favorite. (Although, hey, props for being willing to share his intermittent misgivings about the new sheriff in town.) And while I agree that Ganswein should have been assigned exclusively to Benedict's residence and not stay on at the papal household (where the pope doesn't live), I wonder whether he should be fired. It's not like Ganswein has any real power. But more important: is this how we want Francis to treat underlings? Sack them when they publicly express dissatisfaction with him? This is a pope who seeks advice from those who don't always agree with him. What kind of church would he be running if he dumped all the people who didn't meld minds with him? Probably not the kind he believes he was elected to lead.